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Fallen Words Paperback – May 8, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Manga legend Tatsumi is renowned for his grim gekiga stories depicting buffeted souls struggling to survive in harsh post-WWII Japanese society. Here he’s inspired by a far earlier tradition, the performance-based oral storytelling technique of rakugo. Set in Edo-period Japan, these eight simple tales deal in archetypical situations: deadbeat guests hoodwink credulous innkeepers, a merchant tries to balance a wife and a mistress, a popular prostitute creates havoc at her brothel, a nebbish befriends and then tries to outwit the Grim Reaper, a shrewd wife teaches her spendthrift husband a lesson. The humor infusing these yarns is uncharacteristic of Tatsumi, but his fans will recognize the portrayals of ineffectual working-class men striving for a bit of pleasure. In their unstinting depiction of human foibles as well as their starkly effective visual simplicity, these tales aren’t as far from Tatsumi’s groundbreaking gekiga work as one would expect. While it lacks the dramatic impact of his best-known work, this collection attests that at 75, Tatsumi remains committed to exploring new styles within the manga format. --Gordon Flagg

Review

“One of Japan's most important visual artists.” ―The New York Times on A Drifting Life

A Drifting Life is as involving and thorough as any prose memoir, while remaining as immediate and concise as the best comics. It is, honestly, one of the most significant works the medium has ever produced.” ―The Onion, The A.V. Club on A Drifting Life

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1770460748
  • ISBN-13: 978-1770460744
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.7 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #541,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Fallen Words," or rakugo, as the Japanese call them, are stories handed down throughout the generations to be molded and kindled to the ways of contemporary life. This is Tatsumi at his nicest, as he notes in the afterword saying that most gekiga of the past eschewed humor. True, this has nothing of the grief of "Hell" or "Push Man" but those looking for something lighter will find this mostly enjoyable. The little boy in "New Years Festival," the moment of art transcending mimicry in "Escape of the Sparrows," the final scene with the Reaper in "The God of Death," and a man sharing a kiss with his ex-wife's spirit through a tobacco pipe in "Fiery Spirits" are all memorable. But where's the humor? Sadly, my fat white American body and small mind are not familiar with the "rakugo" of past, so something is sort of lost between cultures. Many of the stories are thirty page build ups to one punch line, and sometimes it works, but sometimes it sits like cold sake.

Listen, the dude is a legend in comix and even the worst story here is worth your time, but expect nothing of the tragic characters or moral ennui of the past gekiga works. D&Q rarely picks a flub, and this is no different. Recommended for the initiated.
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Format: Paperback
Yoshihiro Tatsumi adopts "rakugo", in Japanese meaning "fallen words", a kind of comedic fable-storytelling that was an aural tradition for many centuries in Japan. In these eight collected stories, Tatsumi's masterful storytelling is shorn of its usual tragic veil seen in books like "Good-bye" and "Abandon the Old in Tokyo", instead taking a light-hearted stance tinged with physical comedy.

The stories are all brilliant, bar none: Tatsumi sets all of them in the Edo period so the reader is treated to traditional Japanese culture set in a romanticised past, free of the Western influence of later years. They have a flavour of whimsy and fantasy about them - one involves a drunken artist paying for his bed and board by drawing some sparrows onto a screen. Once sunlight falls upon them, the sparrows come to life! In a different story, a man whose wife and mistress die after cursing one another through a voodoo-type doll, is haunted by their ghosts depicted as fiery spirits; while in another story a penniless man meets the God of Death and hatches a scheme to make money from the Grim Reaper.

The book is set out like a Japanese book so the reader has to read from right to left instead of left to right, though of course the writing is in English. It adds to overall experience of reading Japanese literature.

The aspect of the stories that I think will jar the reader are the endings which are by turns anti-climactic, bizarre, and slapsticky, as if Tatsumi ran out of space and abruptly ended each story on a strange note. This is in fact part of the "rakugo" style of storytelling where each story has comedic elements with the ending providing a punchline to the tale.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tatsumi's A Drifting Life was brilliant ... astounding ... but the stories here fail to either entertain or enlighten me ... I believe he is talented but needs to try something maybe a bit different ...
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